Pirates-Real and Imagined
This course will examine the vital presence of pirates in maritime, particularly Atlantic, history and in English literature, including the travelogues some of them produced. We will begin with Elizabethan forms of state-sponsored piracy, “adventuring,” and exploration, and then follow pirates into the eighteenth century. We will think about their shifting profiles as they abetted and disrupted colonial and commercial practices and ask how they could be both national heroes and hostis humanis generis (enemies of all mankind). We will examine the history of impressment and of labor, including indenture and slavery, that played a role in the making of pirate lives and the codes of conduct they developed for their operations. We will learn to see pirates as contributors to political theory and practice, trade and commerce, as well as to natural history and sea-borne discovery. We will read about the occasional women pirates who infiltrated and functioned within this very male world. In general, we will also be tracking the reasons why some pirates became legends, and why they continue to fascinate readers and movie-goers.